Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The obligatory Commonwealth Games post

The ticket prices for the opening ceremony at the Commonwealth Games here in Melbourne are steep, to put it midly - in the AUD $420-590 range. The games kick off on Wednesday in the hallowed precints of MCG, and if the hype in the city is anything to go by, the price may well be worth paying for. To give credit where it's due, Melbourne has prepared (or so it seemed to my beery eyes) pretty well for the games. What's more, Melburnians, so famous (in their own city) for their love of sport, seem to have bought into the concept of the games quite generously. Which doesn't seem all that surprising considering Australia is a bit like the First Lady of the Commonwealth, but when you consider the general lack of enthusiasm about the games elsewhere, that is an achievement. Melbourne hasn't really hosted a sporting event of great magnitude in a while, and one suspects that may have something to do with it. All in all, it is hard to escape the seeming indifference towards the games in the rest of the world, and particuarly in the Commonwealth countries themselves, if the buzz on the web is anything to go by. In India, Rediff is as usual putting in its bit, but it is hardly the same kind of coverage an India-Pak series or even the Asian Games get. A pertinent question may be, are these games still relevant, now that the Commonwealth itself is a largely ineffectual organisation, a relic of the Raj? Even if the Melbourne games are a success, the question still remains relevant in my view. For one, the games do not produce enough world class performances to elevate themselves beyond the small world. Further, there is not much evidence to suggest that the games are a money spinner the way the Olympics or the soccer world cup are - these are admittedly unfair comparisons, but then commercial considerations are inescapable. Lastly, there is the issue of hosting the games - once again, unlike those two other events, countries are not exactly falling over each other to host the commonwealth games. The one reason I do like the games is that India usually performs quite creditably, being quite strong in shooting and weightlifting events at the level. Some of the performances at Manchester were outstanding and came as a pleasant surprise. The most notable was the gold in women's hockey, where India fended off a strong Aussie side. The other factor, of course, is that the next edition will be held in our own New Delhi. I hope the games organising committee (whatever name it goes by) is putting its best foot forward and that infrastructure is getting a serious upgrade. The last time New Delhi had a similar upgrade was in 1982 when the Asian Games were a huge success. Unfortunately, all that work came to nothing in the years later courtsey official apathy of epic proportions. Have our boards/bodies learnt anything? Even before the games officially have kicked off, India has had an inauspicious start, although the latest problem was an off-field affair that athletes had nothing to do. Hopefully there will be a much happier outcome by the end of the games. - NK


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